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Police Technology and Forensic Science

Timeline of Police Technology 1850 - 1960



The first multi-shot pistol, introduced by Samuel Colt, goes into mass production. The weapon is adopted by the Texas Rangers and, thereafter, by police departments nationwide.


San Francisco is the site of one of the earliest uses of systematic photography for criminal identification.


On June 17, 1862, inventor W. V. Adams patented handcuffs that used adjustable ratchets - the first modern handcuffs.


The use of the telegraph by fire and police departments begins in Albany, New York in 1877.


The telephone comes into use in police precinct houses in Washington, D.C.


Chicago is the first U.S. city to adopt the Bertillon system of identification. Alphonse Bertillon, a French criminologist, applies techniques of human body measurement used in anthropological classification to the identification of criminals. His system remains in vogue in North America and Europe until it is replaced at the turn of the century by the fingerprint method of identification.


Scotland Yard adopts a fingerprint classification system devised by Sir Edward Richard Henry. Subsequent fingerprint classification systems are generally extensions of Henry's system.


Edmund Locard establishes the first police department crime laboratory in Lyon, France.


The Los Angeles Police Department establishes the first police department crime laboratory in the United States.


The use of the teletype is inaugurated by the Pennsylvania State Police.


Detroit police begin using the one-way radio.


Boston Police begin using the two-way radio.


American police begin the widespread use of the automobile.


The prototype of the present-day polygraph is developed for use in police stations.


The FBI inaugurates its crime laboratory which, over the years, comes to be world renowned.


Radar is introduced to traffic law enforcement.


The American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) meets for the first time.


The New Orleans Police Department installs an electronic data processing machine, possibly the first department in the country to do so. The machine is not a computer, but a vacuum-tube operated calculator with a punch-card sorter and collator. It summarizes arrests and warrants.


A former marine invents the side-handle baton, a baton with a handle attached at a 90-degree angle near the gripping end. Its versatility and effectiveness eventually make the side-handle baton standard issue in many U.S. police agencies.

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